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Seven years of learning

From simply just about money to everything about ‘life lessons’

When she heard about being included in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), she admits saying ‘pera, pera lang ‘to.’

Though it is true that the program has greatly helped their family financially, 42-year-old Gemma Apego, a resident of Brgy. Gimalas in Balayan, Batangas, sees the program differently seven years later.

For her, the Pantawid Pamilya program is an opportunity for families to learn—contrary to how other people see it as an opportunity to receive money from the government.

Changing perspectives

“Ang naisip ko talaga noong makasama ako sa 4Ps, makakakuha ako ng pera dito. Mahirap talaga kasi ang buhay namin noong mga panahong iyon,” shared Gemma.

At that time, in 2012, Gemma’s three children were all in school. They were experiencing a lot of trouble with their finances, especially that it was only Leodigario, her husband, who was earning for their family as a driver.

As a program-beneficiary, the family received cash assistance in support for the needs on health and education of their three children. They simply had to comply with the conditions of the program such as maintaining 85 percent monthly attendance rate in school and submitting to monthly preventive health checkups among others.

Another condition of the program is the grantees’ attendance to the monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS). The FDS is a component of the program that teaches parent-grantees on various topics including budget management, strengthening marital relationships, rights of children and disaster preparedness among others.

“Doble pa pala ang makukuha ko sa programa dahil sa mga pag-aaral na dinadaluhan ko. Napakarami kong natutunan sa mga FDS,” she shared.

For her, it is not only her who is given a chance to grow through the FDS. It is every one in her family as well.

“Natutunan ko dito na intindihin ang asawa ko. Hindi dapat mainitin ang ulo ko kung maliit man ang kinikita n’ya. Dapat magtulungan kami at matuto kaming pagkasyahin ang kinikita para sa pagkain at pambaon sa school ng mga anak namin,” said Gemma, who later started selling banana que and accepting laundry jobs to help Leodigario with the finances.

Also, it is in the FDS that she learned to appreciate more the value of educating her children.

“Paulit-ulit kong ipinapaunawa sa mga anak namin na kailangang magtiis para makatapos. Kahit mahirap ang buhay namin, makakamit din nila ang tagumpay basta mag-aral lang sila nang mabuti,” said Gemma.

Full of lessons

“Kahit isang beses lang ang FDS sa isang buwan, napakarami ko namang natutunan dito at naisasabuhay namin ito. Naibabahagi ko rin ito sa asawa ko at sa mga anak ko,” she shared.

She is proud that through the FDS, she learned to communicate with her children, too.

“Pag may problema sila, kinakausap ko sila. Dapat pala, kaibigan din ang turing natin sa mga anak natin para mas makita nila na mahalaga sila at mahal natin sila,” she added.

Through the years of attending FDS and learning from each session, Gemma is proud of the changes in her family.

Besides their improved and strengthened relationship inside their home, they are also a stronger family with a common goal—that is improving their life.

Two of her children are now in college. Myka, 19, her second daughter, is in second year taking up Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Her youngest, 18-year-old Michelle Ann, is in first year taking up Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Their eldest, Divimae, 22, finished a vocational course and is now working as a cashier. Divimae now helps the family, especially in the allowance of the college students.

On the other hand, Leodigario continues working hard for the family, and Gemma makes sure she can help with the growing demands of the family through getting seasonal jobs such as a product bundler in their area.

As of July 2019, Gemma’s family is no longer a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilya program. All three of her children have reached 18 years old—the time when a family is automatically delisted from the program. This means her family has stopped receiving grants from the government since then.

Despite this, Gemma remains positive. Armed with the lessons she learned in her seven years of being a program beneficiary, she is confident that they can work together as a family to reach their goal.# with reports from AMPerez

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